For the third straight year, this time as the host nation in Malmo, Sweden will play for the World Junior Championship Gold Medal on Sunday against Finland. It is the first time Finland has made the final game since 2001.
Sweden, who has won six straight games, secured its berth in the title game with thrilling a 2-1 win over Russia on Saturday morning.
Filip Forsberg, the Swedes’ captain and a Nashville Predator, started things off with less than a minute remaining in the opening period. Forsberg was the beneficiary of some hard work from Carolina Hurricane’s prospect Elias Lindholm.
With Sweden’s five-on-three advantage expiring, Lindholm fought off a couple Russian defenders high in the zone before sliding a no-look pass to Forsberg low in the slot. Forsberg’s one timer from the left circle found the back of the Russian net. It was Forsberg’s fourth goal of the tournament.
The goal was also Forsberg’s tournament-leading 12th point (4g-8a, 6gp), as Ostervala, Sweden native looks become the first Swede to lead the World Juniors in scoring since Henrik Sedin in 2000 (13 points).
In the second game of the semifinals, Nashville prospect-laden Finland took on Canada, and the Finns routed the favored Canadians 5-1.
Saku Maenalanen, a Preds 2013 fifth-round pick, kept his foot on the pedal, recording his eighth point (6g-2a) of the tournament on Finland’s second-period power-play goal – the eventual game winner. Maenalanen tipped a shot on Canada’s Zach Fucale, who made the save, but the rebound came out to Arturri Lehkonen, who buried it for a 2-0 lead.
Maenalanen leads the tournament in goal scoring (6), and ranks among the Top 10 players in points. His line, comprised of Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen and Lehkonen, a Canadiens prospect, has been one of the tournament’s most productive, combining for 23 points in six games.
It was a defensive connection for Finland’s third goal on Saturday, as 2012 fourth-round selection Mikko Vainonen hooked up with defensive partner Rasmus Ristolainen for the goal. The helper was Vainonen’s first point of the tournament.
Between the pipes, Juuse Saros, Nashville’s fourth-round pick in the 2013 Entry Draft, continues his strong performance for the Finns. Saros turned away 23-of-24 shots in Saturday’s game, including a late 10-shot flurry from the Canadians. The 5-10, 178-pound netminder has been one of the tournament’s top goalies, allowing just seven goals on 121 shots, while posting a 4-0-1 record in five games for his home country.
Watch the final game of the 2014 World Juniors tomorrow on NHL Network beginning at 12 p.m. CT, and you can catch the recap of the Gold Medal Game here on nashvillepredators.com.